This is an engaging true story of a New York friendship between Edward, an elderly widower, and Isabel, a Canadian journalist recently moved to the city.
Over several exquisite home cooked meals Edward and Isabel talk about the large and important things in life – love, food, loss. Isabel has been covering the Bosnian war, where she met her Serbian husband, and has a new job. Her marriage is failing, and she has a young daughter. Edward is the father of her friend, and he is recently widowed after having been married to the love of his life for many years. He had worked as a tailor, a welder, and in a factory. He and his wife wrote plays as well as raising their children.
The food and drink in the book are mouth-watering. I must try his way of making a bourbon and pastis cocktail, which can be adapted with absinthe to make green fairies (p. 54). I sometimes want books which are consoling or comforting without losing their edge, and this definitely met this criterion. It was a helpful distraction in a stressful week. It also reminded me of the very great sensual pleasures of eating and drinking thoughtfully.
Dinner with Edward is not rose tinted: Edward’s daughter warns Isabel that her father can be quite controlling, and this manifests in him insisting that Isabel try dressing or making up in a particular way (p.71). However, it is clearly only ever done on Isabel’s own terms, and does inject a little Cinderella feeling into a bleak time in her life. Sometimes you just do need some great clothes that you can’t afford.
The book is very New York – I had never heard of Roosevelt Island – and the thrills of hunting down delicacies in little shops and markets feature strongly. I loved the glimpse of a life open to new friends and acquaintances. In the age of online friends, we can make unexpected ones if we approach things with an open heart. Edward continually finds people interesting, and takes emotional risks despite having had several terrible heartbreaks in his life. The joys can that can be found in hard times leap out, as does the importance of being open to possibilities and saying yes to things. A little gem.